Le passé [The Past] (2013)

Le passé
Director: Asghar Farhadi
Writer: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Ali Mosaffa, Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Pauline Burlet, Elyes Aguis, Jeanne Jestin, Sabrina Ouazani
Part of: Viennale

Plot:
Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) just returned to France from Iran to finalize his divorce from Marie (Bérénice Bejo). What he doesn’t know is that Marie already lives with a new man, Samir (Tahar Rahim) and his son Fouad (Elyes Aguis), a realization with which he struggles a bit. But not as much as Marie’s oldest daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet). Since Ahmad and Lucie get along very well, Marie asks him to discover what’s going on. Ahmad agrees and suddenly finds himself deeper in his ex-wife’s new life than he thought he would be.

Le passé starts off as a very well-made, very normal divorce story. It then descends into melodramatic depths, though, that only hurt the credibility of and my interest in the story.

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I really loved the beginning of this film. How Ahmad arrives in France, how he and Marie approach each other tenderly, trying not to open up old wounds but not really succeeding. I loved how important Ahmad was for Lucie, even though he isn’t her biological father. I loved how sensitively Farhadi shows the general awkwardness of the situation. Because it is a difficult situation: a divorce, a new partner, patchwork families…

And all of that is set in scene with a great cast. I knew that Bérénice Bejo and Tahar Rahim would have no problems and I’m happy to say that the others didn’t either. It’s Ali Mosaffa who provides the surprisingly stable center in this film (and he does so wonderfully) and Pauline Burlet makes me wanna keep an eye on her and her future.

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Unfortunately Farhadi apparently wasn’t satisfied with telling a “normal” story. Instead he heaps on dramatic event after trauma after dramatic event and then yet another layer of conspiracy. And after the third or so twist the story took, it had succeeded in shaking me off its trail completely. And then I grew bored, especially when the perspective changed away from Ahmad (which happened quite suddenly I thought).

After all these twists and turns, it also didn’t manage to come to a good end. I mean, the ending itself is very well made but it doesn’t actually resolve anything about the story or tell us about where the characters will end up or even where they could go. It just stops there, leaving the audience on their own with bits and pieces of about three stories that all don’t quite go together. Maybe it was the intent because life usually can’t be resolved completely with a bow on top but it left me completely dissatisfied.

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Summarizing: a good first half wasted on a over the top second half.

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